Recency bias reigns here in the puzzle cave.
A big meteor sailed past the earth recently, a small one (but big enough to scare and to do harm) did find its way to the bottom of a Russian lake. Meb Faber shows the odds of such a thing killing me. Maybe I shouldn’t worry.
Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast. Bob Seawright says we should worry about that more than we do.
One website tells me that the odds of a big California earthquake are increasing and another says that the whole of Yellowstone could blow any time now.
It is easy to get frightened by all of these things, yet the odds are very long that I’ll see the effects of any of them, with the possible exception of climate change.
I’m going to think about the implications anyway. Our economic system, great though it is, contains the inherent belief that nature can be dominated. And our lives are increasingly divorced from nature. Yet we are at its mercy.
We have a fine-tuned system, with communications, transportation, and other connective tissue working in ways that we never could have imagined a few decades ago. But we are unprepared for major interruptions. They don’t have to come from nature (I’m also concerned about cybercrime, etc., and think the functioning of our markets and payment systems are more fragile than commonly thought) — and the odds say that they won’t.
Long odds plus incredibly large consequences. We’ll probably worry more than we should but be prepared less than we should.
The Edge Question series:
- Edge: What Should We Be Worried About?
- Edge: Tadas Viskanta
- Edge: Kent Engelke
- Edge: Tom Brakke
- Edge: Doug Short
- Edge: Michael Kitces
- Edge: Milevsky, Ritholtz, Zweig, Ferri and More
Tom Brakke, CFA, is a consultant, writer, and investment advisor.
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